PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As Oregonians assess the damage from the recent winter storm that brought snow and ice damage to the region, many will need to file insurance claims.
KOIN 6 News asked Brad Hilliard from the Oregon Department of Consumer & Business Services what insurance will and won’t cover.
Editor’s note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Will my homeowner’s or renter’s insurance cover a hotel stay if my home is damaged?
Hilliard: If a tree or a limb or something has severely damaged the home, there’s an opening in the roof, there’s a hole in a wall, and it’s unsafe to live there, then yes, your typical homeowner’s insurance will cover you to go stay at a motel or hotel, will cover some additional food expenses and things like that. They’ll even help cover boarding your pet if you need to.
Q: What if your power is out for a long time? Will it cover a hotel then?
Hilliard: Typically no. If your home is still intact, there’s no real structure damage, you’re just out of power, that is not going to qualify you for those additional living expenses. However, it is important to talk to your insurance company because you may have some other types of circumstances (like a health reason) where you need power.
Q: What steps should you take after your home is damaged?
Hilliard: Contact your insurance company and be specific. These winter storms cause all types of different damage. Whether it’s trees down, the weight of snow could cause a structure to collapse, lots of different things can happen. As you’re getting out there to look at things, also make safety a top priority. There’s still a lot of downed power lines and limbs that haven’t quite fallen out of trees yet, so be mindful of those as you assess your damage. Document what you can. Take good photos, and write down what’s damaged. Save all your receipts for hiring professionals or any supplies you purchase to make temporary repairs, like if you have a broken window and you need to board it up. Don’t get it repaired until the insurance company has a chance to look at it, but you can make temporary repairs so it is safe to live there.
Q: If your trees have dangerous hanging limbs, will insurance cover the cost for an arborist to cut them down?
Hilliard: No. Your duties as a homeowner are really to take care of your property and maintain it so if you’re in that situation, you’ll incur that cost on your own. If it does fall and damage something then your insurance would step in and help at that point.
Q: If your power is out for a long time, can you get reimbursed for spoiled food?
Hilliard: Yes. Your deductible does apply so if all you have is food damage, do you want to file a claim and have that on your record plus pay the deductible? But if you have damage to your home, you’re already going to be filing a claim, you can include the food spoilage in there with it.
Q: What about damage to your car?
Hilliard: You have three different types of coverage. Your comprehensive coverage is going to cover a limb falling on your car, a tree falling on your car, something while it’s parked. If you’re driving the car and you strike a downed limb or a downed tree you have to have collision coverage for that. If you slide on the ice or cause damage to someone else’s property, you have liability coverage on your policy to cover that.
Q: Do you expect an influx of claims following these winter storms? Should people expect delays?
Hilliard: We do expect claims to start coming in for homeowners, renters, auto, even business insurance as well. Some grocery stores have been without power for several days and things are spoiling and getting damaged. So we do expect an influx to cover all these things for the next several weeks. Have a little patience, just like a lot of us are having patience with getting our power turned back on. Insurance companies are also still trying to work with wildfire victims. There’s a lot of need out there, so be patient with your insurance company, but be sure to contact them if you have damage and get the process started.
The Division of Financial Regulation’s consumer advocate team has insurance specialists available to help if you have questions or problems with your insurance. They can be reached toll free at 888-877-4894 or online.